Posts Tagged ‘CT’

Tooling Around the Northeast, 29 July – 06 August 2016

9 August 2016

Last week we took a driving tour around parts of the Northeast.  We drove 1093 miles over eight days.  Photos from our vacation are here on Google+.

We left OKC Friday evening (29 July). We had an airline Charlie-Fox right off the bat. The ground crew got us boarded and completely ready to go 10 min before departure (very cool). The pilot reported that the fuel guy loaded 1,000 lbs too much on the airplane. We sat for a while, and then the pilot announced that it would take to long to get the fuel guy back to defuel, and it would be faster to sit near the runway and burn it off (that’s REALLY strange to hear). We say there for 20+ minutes, then the pilot says they have a brake temp warning light, so we have to taxi back and have maintenance look at it.

We go back, but there is only one ground crew in OKC, and the airplane in the gate is having a maintenance issue, so we wait 20 minutes before they push back. In the meantime, the LAX-OKC EMB 175 has come in, and is waiting behind us. We finally get there, the maintenance guy agrees the brakes are not on fire, they sign out, and we head out again. AA booked us on a later flight, but we get into BOS at 1250, and to the hotel in Providence at 0230, and in bed about 0300.

A note here: we had a sail around Newport harbor scheduled for Saturday morning, I sent an email to the folks there (Classic Cruises of Newport) right before bed, and they changed us to the 1230 Monday cruise, which was darn nice of them. We slept until almost 1000.

After dragging out of bed, we headed to downtown Providence and visited the Rhode Island School of Design museum. They have an impressive collection of art from names I know, including an interesting piece by Rodan. The museum is connected to the Pendelton House, which has a lot of Revolutionary War era stuff in it.

After the museums, we headed towards NYC. We stopped in Milford and checked into our hotel, then headed to NYC. I wrote a blog post about driving there.

While Raegan saw Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, Erin and I just wandered around the Times Square area.  It was raining (occasionally pretty hard) while we were there, and it wasn’t quite as crowded as it was last year, but there was still a huge amount of life and elan around us.

Once Phantom was over, we headed back to the hotel, arriving around 0100.  We were now working on one loooong day, less than six hours sleep, then another looong day.  We woke up at 0900, getting a decent recharge, and headed out to Mystic.

We hit the Mystic Aquarium and spent a couple hours there.  I was not as impressed with this aquarium as some others.  While I enjoyed seeing the beluga whales, I liked seeing the rescue area (which was mainly populated by exceptionally cute baby harbor seals), and the couple of sea lions.  I was less than impressed by the one display area.  There was a “pet the shark” area, kind of cool.  The jellyfish exhibit was also very neat.  But it just seemed to me that there was a lot that was lacking.  A physically large part of the aquarium was a swampy area that was filled with lilypads, and had turtles (must have been on vacation that day 🙂 ), small frogs, and bullfrogs (very cool).  At the end of the swamp was a penguin area.  We ended our visit at the stingray “petting” area, where Erin and I were approached by a couple rays.

Afterward, we went down to the Seaport area and wandered around for several hours.  At one point, the drawbridge opened to let a couple ships through, very cool.  We drove the coast route back towards Groton, and drove down to Noank to look at the ocean from in front of some very expensive houses.  We had dinner in Groton, then checked into our hotel, and crashed early.

Monday was a big day.  We headed towards Newport, and part of the drive was through the beautiful woods between I-95 and RI 4.  The big Claiborne Pell Bridge over the Narragansett Bay is very impressive. As I mentioned before, we had moved our sail to Monday, and we arrived at the boarding area early (for us, a minor miracle).  We sailed on the Madeline, a 72-ft trimast schooner.  I *love* the schooner and sloop form, it’s very flowing and sleek.  The folks at Classic Cruises put on a wonderful sail.  The breeze was about 15 knots out of the SE, and when those big sails got filled, the boat accelerated nicely.   We had several heels in the 30deg range.  The breeze was fresh, the crew very nice, and the sail absolutely relaxing.  We didn’t get quite as far out to the ocean as I would have hoped, but it was a great experience:

Newport_sail

After the sail, we had lunch and visited some of the shops in the harbor area.  Then we drove to the coast, passing some amazing, large houses south of downtown.  We drove around the coast and all the way to Fort Adams, then stopped and waded in the ocean for a while.

From Newport, we drove up the east side of Narragansett Bay towards Providence.  We stopped for dinner SE of town, and then headed on into the Boston/Norwood area for the next phase of the trip.

Tuesday and Wednesday were work days for me, so we had activities in the evening that mainly involved shopping.  I found some pretty interesting robotics kits and parts/supplies at a hobby shop in Dedham, and visited an Eastern Mountain Sports to buy a hiking trail map of the White Mountain National Forest.  We also hit an REI, and Raegan and Erin visited the Boston Museum of Fine Art, an amazing museum.

We tried to visit the Blue Mountain Observatory, supposedly the oldest continuously operating weather observatory in the United States.  I noted on their website they were open until 1630, and that was enough time for a quick visit.  We got there, and I was surprised that the road to drive up to the observatory was not open to private vehicles.  I noticed in the parking lot just to the west the sign that said you needed to walk up the road.  Note:  I submitted a correction to Google, as Maps shows the road as drivable.

Regardless, Erin and I walked up there.  It’s just about a mile, and a couple hundred feet of altitude gain, but it was easy for us.  We got up there and saw nice views to the south, northwest, and north.  But… the observatory was closed.  A sign there noted that it was open weekends.  Well, crap.  We walked all around it, petted a couple dogs a couple had brought up, and then we decided to walk back down.  We went back down the road, and decided to walk over to the ski area just a bit down the road, and ended up at the top of the ski lift.  After checking all that out, we walked down the ski slope, and then over to the parking lot.

There was a Massachusetts Audubon Society Blue Hills Trailside on the way.  It has exhibits on the local environment, and displays of rescued animals.

Thursday we got up and checked out of the hotel, and headed northwest towards New Hampshire. My intent was to leave early enough to be able to hike in the Franconia State Park area, but that didn’t work out.

We got to Manchester and visited the Lawrence L. Lee Scouting Museum, which is located at Camp Carpenter, a council facility just southeast of Manchester. The Museum as a lot of vintage uniforms, handbooks, patches, and gear. I was fascinated by the backpacking baskets they had (people actually used them!). The docent was amazingly knowledgeable. We also visited the Scout Shop and I scored a Wood Badge patch.

We drove a sorta roundabout path from Manchester to Concord, then to Lebanon, and north on 91 until we got to 301, where we cut across the corner to Littleton. Tomorrow, we hike.

Friday, Erin and I got up and drove to Franconia Notch State Park.  I-93 is two lanes through here.  We got to the park about 1000, and found every parking lot full of cars.  We parked on the shoulder of I-93 and walked underneath to the east side.  We hiked about 1,000 ft up the Falling Waters trail, marveling at the beautiful waterfalls.  It was hottish and fairly humid.

After the hike we drove back into Littleton, and the three of us had lunch, drove back to the Park, and walked around the Flume Gorge area.

Then we drove down I-93 to Tripoli Road and drove through the White Mountain National Forest.  There were a huge number of campsites along the road!  Many of them were occupied.  We rejoined civilization at Waterville Valley, then drove back to I-93 to our hotel in Manchester.  We tooled around Manchester for a bit, then got up the next morning and flew back to OKC.

This was a nice trip.  Aside from work days, and the flight situation getting to Boston, we got up and out of the hotel in decent time, saw a lot of pretty scenery (always a priority for us), did some cool stuff, and generally relaxed.

Food was very expensive on this trip.  We typically pay about $35 for the three of us to eat, and we were getting meals at family restaurants in the $50-$60 range, with no real evidence of additional quality.

There were some nice towns that we would like an extended visit at, including Manchester and possibly Littleton.

There is always next year for more exploring.

Paul’s Pasta, Groton, CT

1 August 2016

Pauls Pasta Shop Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

This place was great! The building is pretty neat, we ate out on the deck, with a great view of the Thames River and New London. We got there around 1900, and had a 20 minute wait.

We started off with some excellent garlic cheese bread and marinara. The bread was very good, and the marinara was excellent, thick and with great flavor.

Erin and I had fettuccine al fredo with chicken. Hers was the small (one chicken breast) and mine was large (two chicken breasts). The fettuccine was excellent, not too rich, and the noodles were perfect. Neither of us could finish our dinners.

Raegan had lobster ravioli, and while she said they were very good, again, it was hard to finish them as there was so much.

Service was good despite how crowded the place was. Our check was $54.34. They had pretty good iced tea as well, brewed there. The only thing I would count down is that the chicken in our meals was breaded, fried, and then put on the bed of noodles, when it should have been sauteed and tossed.

I would contrast this meal with our lunch. Cost was about the same, but the quality of this meal was far better.

Good stuff. I would eat here again any time.

Filomena’s, Waterford, CT

1 August 2016

Filomena's Market Cafe & Ctrng Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

We hit this place for lunch today traveling between Milford and the Mystic area.

We all started with a cup of very good clam chowder. The meals were a Caesar wrap, which Raegan reported was OK, a philly cheesesteak, which Erin liked, but it was huge and she could not finish. I tried a good chunk of it; the beef was pretty good. Finally, I had a burger. The beef was pretty good, the bun was huge, the fries were OK.

The tea was concentrate and not good. The Coke was OK. Service was very good. Our check was $55.30. For what we got, it was pretty expensive and not that good. The best part of the meal was the chowder.

Northeastern Family Trip, 24 July – 02 August 2013

5 August 2013

We took a 10-day vacation trip that combined a bit of work for me with a lot of travel for all of us, a loop that started and ended at New York LaGuardia airport, and looped from New Jersey back to Connecticut.

Photos from the trip on on my Google site here.

Trip summary: Just under 1400 miles, and seven states: New Jersey, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.

We started out by flying from OKC to LGA on 24 July. I bought my ticket through my work travel site (saving over $100 by flying to a NYC airport instead of Boston, where I would be working), and got the family tickets by cashing in some American AAdvantage miles. We had good flights in, arriving at LGA around 2130. Here is where it got fun. The signage out of LGA is for crap. We had no less than three oops moments trying to get from there to our hotel in New Jersey, every one of them within five miles of the airport. It wasn’t any better on the way back in (see that later). We broke a couple laws regarding turn lanes and such, but eventually got moving, and crossed the RFK bridge to get our first sight of Manhattan!

As we approached the Washington Bridge, it turns out that the RFK-westbound bridge ramp was… closed! No signs telling us that. We did watch as a couple enterprising New Yorkers drove around the barrels and cones and a curb to get on the bridge anyway. We drove down the Hudson for a couple miles, broke another couple laws turning around, and got up on the bridge that way. We then continued the drive to Parsippany, NJ, our base camp for several nights. The only remaining adventure was being passed by at least 15 motorcycles, weaving in and out of traffic. We were doing 80, they had to be going 120; those guys were moving.

The next morning, Thursday, we got up and had breakfast. Our plan for the day was to take the Staten Island Ferry to New York. That plan survived until we passed a National Park Service sign that pointed to the Thomas Edison Factory National Historic Park in West Orange, NJ. It was a GREAT detour! I was utterly fascinated by the place. Edisons work was so wide ranging as to be incomprehensible. The mostly self-guided tour led through the main building where stuff was machined. After lunch, we headed north to the town of Paterson, NJ, and the Great Falls there. We next just drove out into the countryside to look at the pretty hills and trees. We ended up back in the hotel around 2100.

Friday we made good on the Thursday plan. We drove through the Newark area and made our way to Staten Island. Since we were inbound to NYC, it was a $13 bridge toll. We mad a heck of a time trying to park at the Ferry lot, but ended up using on-street parking a couple blocks away. We missed a ferry by one minute, and so had a half hour wait. The half hour ride across the Hudson was amazing! Tours out to Liberty Island were booked up through September, but the ferry ride past Liberty Island was awe-inspiring. I always enjoy ships and ports, and that was a huge bonus on the ferry crossing.

We got to NYC with the expected crush of people; it was amazing! We had lunch at a streetside shop, and headed for the Subway. We had a little glitch here. Each ride is $2.50. I went to a subway pass station, and bought two $15 passes. The third one, it complained about my credit card. We used Raegans card (same company and account, different number), but same result. WTH? We used Ians card to get the last two, no sweat. We figured that USAA was being prudent since us using the card out of state was tripping a flag. We called, and that was NOT the case. USAA showed the two passes being bought, but no declines on the other attempts. And the card worked two minutes later at a restaurant. My theory is that the subway machine/network was unhappy about buy three cards of the same denomination in a row. Regardless, we had our passes.

We headed uptown to the area south of Central Park. We walked the famous 42nd Street, Times Square, the Rockerfeller Center area, visited the flagship American Girl store there, and just generally drank in the sights, the people, the smells, the food carts. It was ALIVE there. Eventually we were quite walked out, and so we headed for the nearest subway stop, which happened to be Grand Central Terminal. That was one amazing building! The architecture was stunning. Although the high ceiling was intended to collect and vent steam and smoke, now it is just gorgeous and HUGE.

We rode the subway back to the ferry port, had a short wait for the next one, and then an amazing ride back to Staten Island with the lit up NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty lit as well. After some car stuff on Staten Island, we found a restaurant, and got back to the hotel around 2300.

Saturday we visited the Intrepid Air and Space Museum. This is the WWII/Korean War carrier USS Intrepid along with a lot of other exhibits. We headed out from the hotel and drove to NYC via the Lincoln Tunnel (another $13 toll), then parked on a former dock ($35). We spent basically the entire day at the Intrepid; there is a LOT to see. A number of the decks are open. I wish the engine spaces were open, I think that would be fascinating! We were able to attend a lecture by four senior NASA folks on the future of manned spaceflight (and both Raegan and I got to ask questions, very cool). The Intrepid has the shuttle Enterprise on her after deck, which was a nice treat. Again, I wish the shuttle was actually open; I don’t see why it wouldn’t be able to be. It would be the coolest thing to walk the middeck and into the payload bay. The only thing we didn’t get to do was walk through the submarine Growler; they close it early for some reason.

At the New Jersey Meadowlands, there was an interesting structure that reminded me of enclosed ski areas I’ve seen pictures of in Asia. A little research here showed that’s exactly what it was, as part of a large entertainment and amusement park development for the Meadowlands. Not open, unfortunately. Maybe this fall according to Wikipedia.

We headed back to NJ through the tunnel again (no toll since we were outbound), had dinner, and got back to the hotel around 2100.

A note on meals here. We ate in a number of diners. I’ve seen NJ referred to as the diner capital of the world. The meals we ate in diners were at worst pretty good; none were bad. They were by and large, huge amounts of food. The menus were varied. It’s hard to get fried chicken in the OKC area, but I think every diner we ate at had fried chicken, and it was good stuff. The only downer, we had one place with decent iced tea during the trip; it was at a diner. I actually looked in a WalMart for a jug of Red Diamond; they had some other brand, but it was lemoned, so I passed.

On Sunday we got up and packed, and headed north. Our objective was Burlington, VT. We got a late start. We drove through Parsippany and one other small town. We then stopped for a full gas tank, and found that NJ requires gas stations to be full service. You can’t do anything in the process except hand your credit card to the attendant. We continued north through stunning rolling, tree-covered hills, eventually getting off the interstate to find Kaaterskill Falls in the Catskills.

This was a great little hike, about 1.3 miles roundtrip and 600 ft of elevation gain.

The only problem is that the parking area is a bit away from the trailhead, and you have to walk along the road with only about two feet of space. It’s dangerous. I would be very surprised if people have not been hit and injured or killed along this.

The Catskills were beautiful. There are lots of trails in the area that I would like to go back and walk. Evetually we got into Albany, accompanied by heavy rain with a couple vivid bolts of lightning. We got dinner at a very good family style place, and continued north. Darkness was falling as we got to Lake George, and eventually we crossed a very pretty bridge over the southern end of Lake Champlain. We got into Burlington around 2200. I would far rather make that drive in daylight next time.

On Monday morning, we were in the Hilton right on the waterfront in Burlington. We toured the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center (ECHO is Ecology, Culture, History and Opportunities). This is a bit of a natural history center, partly an aquarium, partly a childrens museum, and partly a research center). It’s pretty cool. We also walked along waterfront for Lake Champlain. From Burlington, we headed out through the Green Mountains of Vermont through Montpelier. We drove on into New Hampshire and towards the White Mountains. There were a bunch of very slow drivers along this route, like 20 miles an hour under the speed limit. It is, however, a beautiful drive.

One word about wildlife. From the moment we left Burlington, we saw sign after sign after sign warning us about moose crossing, moose activity, moose this, moose that. We saw exactly zero moose. I think that the VT and NH tourism departments need to get on the ball and get those moose out for us tourists to gawk at.

We drove up Mount Washington in NH. The views were magnificent. We saw a stunning, bright full-arc rainbow on the way up. It was cold (50F) and pretty windy up there higher than 6,000 ft. I enjoyed looking at the views, and the exhibits of the “worst weather in the world”. Afterward, we headed south into the Boston area, getting in around 2245.

On Tuesday, I went to work for the day. Raegan and the kids went to Concord and explored the area.

Wednesday, I worked again. Afterward, we went back to Concord, visiting the Minuteman National Historic Park where the American Revolution started. We also went to the Concord Museum, which was a very neat facility. Afterward, we drove down the battlefield trail to Lexington. The day ended with us tooling around outer Boston for a while, then driving downtown to look at Old North Church (which is wedged very tightly between many newer buildings), the Boston Commons, Beacon Hill, and the State Capitol.

Thursday, we took it easy heading back towards New York. We had lunch in Rhode Island, visited Misquamicut Beach, stopped in Mystic, CT to visit the Seaport and have tea, then drove through New London, into NY and our last hotel for the trip.

We got up Friday morning for our last day, had a leisurely breakfast, and headed out the 24 mile trip three hours before departure time. It took and hour and a half to get there!

Random Notes

We had a Hyundai Tuscon rental car. It was a good size for the four of us. We traveled with three biggish rolling suitcases, and one checkable rolling suitcase. Those and our four backpacks were our entire gear set. We did pretty well, I think. We bought some stuff on the road (including some shirts on sale for Ian), and managed to get it all back with no problem.

This was a connected trip. We didn’t use a single paper map (although we had one for Vermont). We relied on Google Maps for navigation. There were a couple places we didn’t have connectivity; mainly along the eastern shore of Lake George, NY. The car had dual 12VDC plugs and one 5VDC USB up front. I bought a 200W inverter/power supply at Target that took a 12VDC input and put out 120VAC, 5VDC USB, and another 12VDC (it was only $25, a good deal). We ran that inverter into the back seat for the kids, and Raegan and I shared the USB up front. It worked out pretty good.

Some of the roads we traveled on were terrible. We were constantly driving on a minefield, it felt like. NYC roads were especially bad, to include the expressways, the arteries, and the side roads. Signage was lacking in many instances. We totally missed (for example) the turnoff for the RFK bridge. Once we figured that out, we hit the toll booth for the bridge, and were looking for I-278S; we only saw a sign for I-278 and followed it… north. The turn the other way had no sign for I-278 at all; it should have had one for I-278S.

If you are reading this and you are in charge of road signage around LGA, you should be fired. Every other airport I have been to has large signs on approach for rental car returns. The only ones around LGA are ON THE GROUNDS. And since the rental car returns are on the far west side, they should have signs before that exit to get people there who are coming to LGA eastbound. After getting turned around, I saw a sign (it was probably only 8×14″) for Avis as I came west. Dumb.

Summary

We left a LOT undone up there. Raegan and I were constantly amazed at how green and beautiful it was. I’m already thinking that the next time, we will spend less time in NJ/NY and more time in upstate NY, maybe Canada, and drive over into Maine.

This 10-day trip cost us about $3,000, which isn’t too bad, I think. We saved a huge amount of money by staying 20 miles out of NYC. Of course, that is partially offset by the tolls, but the hotel costs in NYC were $250+ per night; our Embassy Suites was $120, and the HGI we stayed in the last night was only $105.

There is a lot of cool stuff that we didn’t realize was doable, for example, visiting the Coast Guard Academy in New London, and the USS Nautilus museum in Groton. We saw the Edison exhibits via a National Park Service (NPS) sign on the Interstate; we otherwise would have had no clue that it was there. And it was very cool. We also passed on many shorter stops that could have added up to hours of extra time; an example is the overlook of the Hudson from the parkway we drove down from our last night hotel on the way to the airport. More research next time.

Food… we ate very well on this trip, all local. Diners have huge amounts of food. I think the prices are 20% higher than prices back home.

We need to get moving more quickly in the morning… OK, the heck with it, we haven’t learned how to do that in 10+ years, so never mind.

Navigation in the NYC area is tough! It’s best to have a navigator that is able to look ahead a turn or so so help the driver out.

I wish the NYC area would accept credit cards.

I would like to walk around more of NYC, including every borough, the islands, and the like.

And there is a heck of a lot of hiking in the northeast…